World IA Day Recap: Building Happiness into Web Design

By Davis Erin Anderson, Community Engagement Manager, METRO

This past February, World IA Day hit 38 cities around the globe. The METRO community was well represented at the NYC’s event; the day was planned by Pratt SILS student Samantha Raddatz, along with Pratt SILS Assistant Professor Craig MacDonald and ADP User Experience Designer Carl Collins, and attended by many of our community members.

We recently spoke with Houda El Mimouni, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill, Bruce Shenitz, and Dalia Levine -- all of whom are graduates of Pratt SILS -- to get their thoughts on the day.

What's one take-away that you learned at this year's World IA Day that you're particularly excited by?

Houda: I found the theme of “happy IA” thrilling. Making users happy goes beyond making them satisfied, which is a more difficult mission for information architects and UX designers. In Abby Covert’s words, “Everything affects [a user’s] happiness.” It is the duty of Information Architects to “take things that aren’t clear to people and make them clear.”

20150415_WorldIADay.JPGBruce: I’ll admit that I was just a bit skeptical about this year’s World IA Day theme, “Architecting Happiness.” Chalk it up to being a lifelong New Yorker or a former journalist, but it sounded just a bit squishy to me. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that it provided a valuable entry point for looking at IA and UX problems in – dare I say it? – an enjoyable way.

Some of the talks with what I would have guessed to have the highest S.Q. (Squishiness Quotient) were the most stimulating. Pamela Pavliscak, a data scientist and UX researcher, showed that user happiness was actually an accurate proxy for several more traditional and granular measures of a user experience, such as ease of use and autonomy. As with many a smart observation, this one produced the classic “Of course! Why didn’t I see that before!” reaction.

Rachel: As a not so very technical person, I was really encouraged by Abby Covert's advice to "stay in lo-fidelity for as long as possible...but not forever" followed by a number of examples of how the mighty post-it note and buckets of To Do lists can help in working out answers to many an IA design question. It may seem super simple, but how often are we confronted with a website where we're left wondering if anyone, outside of the web designer, has actually tried to use the website for its intended purpose?

Building happiness into information design was a major theme at World IA Day. Can you share a tip or two on how a site designer might build joy into user experience?

Dalia: After World IA Day, I realize the crucial step of making tasks “more fun” through information design is to flip the moment from frustration to a happier experience. The Goldman Sachs team (Tamara Waye and Nikki Roda) demonstrated how they added an on-screen spreadsheet to display data rather than take away what they knew their audience wanted. They showed that designing for happiness can help build a path to relieve complexity and take collective humanity into account.

Rachel: The more time something takes to do, the less happy a person becomes; getting users to a state of feeling in control makes them less anxious, and having a sense of mastery and an "I've got this down" feeling regarding a site makes for a happy user.

Based on what you heard at WorldIA Day in February, how do you think librarians might apply the principles of information architecture to their work?

Houda: I think the librarians’ perspective is required for creating happy information architecture and design. Users don’t remember the design or appearance of a website or app, but they remember the feeling they take away from the experience, according to Pamela Pavliscak. The happier the users are with an interface the more likely they will return, and that’s exactly what librarians want.

Dalia: Paraphrasing from Abby Covert's book title, librarians "make sense of messes." Even when we do not work in traditional libraries, we deal in information environments. The principles of information architecture are valid for everyone since everyone is dealing with information.

World IA Day presented a great collection of ideas that were varied and interesting. The IA community is engaged. Librarians do not need an invitation to join in -- they are already part of the community.


The photo above was provided to us by Craig MacDonald. Thanks, Craig!